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Keeping up-to-date with our Oasis family during Covid Lockdown


A time to rebuild and take stock

It seems to us that special day care centres like ours are going to be amongst the last “schools” to return after lockdown. When we return, we will have to stagger passenger transport and days between the children in order to meet the distancing requirements. Similarly, once we receive the official go ahead, beneficiaries at the workshops will only return in small teams, once staff have returned and learnt the new ropes of business unusual.

Looking back

In March 2014 our workshop in Elsie’s River burnt down. It was devastating! The building was immediately condemned and declared uninhabitable. Furniture, fittings, equipment, and offices were destroyed and four passenger vehicles severely damaged. Thankfully no one was injured. On the Sunday morning of the fire we sat in the yard on upturned crates while the fire department fought the last of the blaze. We felt very battered and bewildered. The one thing we all agreed on was that our beneficiaries should not suffer unduly. We started putting together our plans for the 200 staff and beneficiaries to relocate to our Claremont services. Exactly 24 hours after our planning commenced, the first hired bus with 60 passengers arrived at Claremont. To this day I am still in awe of the staff team who made this happen.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step – Lao Tzu


Taking Oasis to our beneficiaries

In a way the fire was a microcosm dress rehearsal of sorts. I draw strength from knowing that our staff are now even more determined that our beneficiaries not suffer unduly due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working hard at implementing our programme to take Oasis to our beneficiaries. Staff really miss our beneficiaries and it was an easy exercise calling them back to do this work.

“I draw strength from knowing that our staff are now even more determined that our beneficiaries not suffer unduly due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.”


At our day centres for 90 children with severe/profound intellectual disability, each individual has their own development programme. Some need physiotherapy and some need social work interventions. We have taken Oasis to 76 beneficiaries and their families this week, bearing messages of encouragement to families as well as health and hygiene products, nourishing food and of course toys and games for the children. A programme implementer also assisted to show families how personal development could be continued at home. The 76 beneficiaries also included many from the Oasis workshops.

No one forgotten

In the next weeks we plan to develop a much wider reaching programme – aiming to reach those who may for example not need food assistance but who need encouragement, to be helped to keep safe and who, like all of us at this time, need to see some familiar faces or would love to be given a simple puzzle, craft or magazine.

Huge gratitude

We are so grateful for the messages of support, the encouragement and the financial assistance we have received. In so many ways it keeps us going. Please bear with us if you have not received a tax receipt and our thank you letter yet. Should you wish to support us again in taking Oasis to our beneficiaries, or keeping our wonderful staff team well fed and warm during the dreadful challenges they face, please make a donation via our website or through SnapScan. The fire of 2014 destroyed brick and mortar and many possessions, but it didn’t destroy our spirit. It was rebuilt and occupied within a year. The COVID-19 pandemic has the power to end lives which can never be rebuilt. Please help us to rebuild as many livelihoods and broken spirits as we can. Gail Bester, Executive Director Click here to find out how you can support us.



Should Oasis reopen our recycling now or not? This is the question which we find posed to us, and for which the answer is proving to be one of the toughest balancing acts we have ever had to face. Oasis recycling drop off is important for several reasons:

  • Recyclers need us so they can channel materials into a system to prevent those materials from going into landfills.
  • Our recycling initiative helps us to provide work to hundreds of people with disabilities.

But in these uncertain times, nothing is normal, and the number of issues we face in making the decision to open or not are numerous – truly a balancing act. So, we find ourselves weighing up options and trying to balance all sorts of considerations and complexities in order to make the right decision at the right time.

Balancing the question of whether Oasis should reopen its recycling drop off to the public, has been one of the toughest balancing acts I’ve ever experienced.


We have had numerous queries and some helpful suggestions, and believe me when I say, we are also all eager to get back to work and earn an income. But in order to explain our dilemma, I thought I should share some of the reasoning and context behind our decision to remain closed for now. Amongst other considerations, here are some of the issues:

  • Up to 300 households drop their recycling materials if not daily, then weekly at Oasis – literally thousands of drops off per month. Trying to receive these materials at our gates rather than on our premises would not only create traffic congestion but would still require a high number of workers.
  • Well in excess of 200 staff and disabled beneficiaries work at processing recycling across the two projects at Claremont and Elsies River. Some months we can barely keep up with the volumes. This is particularly true after our closure period in December/January when recyclers pile up their materials while they wait for Oasis to reopen. If we were to operate now, only 50% of our staff may return, severely limiting our ability to process the intake, and yet it would be impossible to restrict drop offs to 50% of their usual volumes.
  • In September 2019 the prices for some materials bottomed out as there was a moratorium on exporting to China. This impacted us greatly and these prices are yet to recover. In April 2020 we were informed of at least two other buyers who are not buying materials for the foreseeable future. This will rectify itself with time as the COVID-19 impact on the economy lessens, but it is still a large impact in our current financial circumstances.
  • By law we may not open until we are able to safeguard the workforce. Part of this is the protective personal equipment (PPE) which we started ordering in early April. PPE is a large, unplanned expense against our already very depleted and finite cash flow and even if we did have the capital to purchase all the PPE we needed, there are huge hold ups with delivery dates. Some affordable good quality items are only available by the end of May. Bear in mind our entire Oasis family across eight services, is 700+ people.
  • Most of our disabled workforce can’t use public transport and travel to work on 32 to 40-seater Oasis buses. Our workers eat lunch in a happily crammed canteen. Add to that the hundreds of members of the public who interface with us when they recycle and shop at our Claremont branch daily. Our beneficiaries’ limitations render many of them to a cognitive functionality of a primary school learner, and they all desire to be social and warm with each other, ultimately making social distancing impossible.

And so even though we have tried to find alternatives for our supporters, we’ve come up empty handed, and while being very mindful of how we are disappointing hundreds of recycling households and businesses, we have had to make the difficult decision to remain closed for now.


We are told by recyclers that a permit is required to drop off materials at local municipal recycling dumps – we can’t confirm that at this time. It is heart breaking, but for now we need to all discard our materials through our household wheelie bin collections. Please forgive us but we quite simply cannot do recycling now, and we promise we have not made this decision lightly. Should you wish to assist us to buy signage, thermometers, soap, sanitisers, masks, visors, and/ or aprons, your contributions would be greatly appreciated. Please don’t relax your disciplined approach to staying safe. Lockdown will slowly be relaxed but we must stay vigilant. Thank you for your support. recycling@oasis.org.za Click here to find out how you can support us. 


UPDATE: In the meantime, if you would like to continue recycling, here is a list of alternative options:

• The recycling centre behind Constantia mall is open for glass, paper and plastic.

• You can drop off your recycling at JustJunk in Wynberg (cost R20 per refuse bag), or contact them to arrange a collection (they will give you a quote depending on your requirements).

• Sign up with Clearer Conscience who will collect your recycling weekly (for a monthly fee).

Thank you for your continued understanding during this time.


I thought reading may ease some of my lockdown frustration and so I have embarked on reading the highly acclaimed “Becoming” by Michelle Obama.“Becoming” opens with some references in the preface to what kids want to do when they grow up. Casting my mind back, I can clearly remember my aspirations. None were generous at all. I wanted to own a bicycle with an ice box at the front, filled with ice creams. I dreamt of riding about the neighbourhood ringing a bell and summoning the neighbourhood kids. My dream was based entirely on my own love of ice cream. What better way to have my fill of that delicious frozen goodness, especially when my pocket money was spent? I lost interest in this career when the first person landed on the moon. After that all I wanted was to become an astronaut. I didn’t know then that I would have an irrational fear of heights. But as selfish as I was, other nicer kids dreamt of being police officers, doctors, social workers and teachers. They had generous ambitions which would help others and save lives. Funny how life works out?! Today we find ourselves in a global pandemic with unprecedented hardship and loss, and yet this is a time where each one of us can do exactly that – help others, care and save lives. President Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Tuesday evening and spoke about saving lives and livelihoods. It strikes me that each one of us can play a role, without ever having to study at university or an academy. Even overgrown selfish kids like me can play a role. This role includes and is not limited to:

  • Staying home unless you have to go out to buy essential food or for medical reasons.
  • Wear a mask and if set up to do so, make masks for others.
  • Wash your hands very thoroughly with soap, regularly.
  • Keep your distance from others in the shop, at the taxi rank and on the pavement.
  • Don’t entertain visitors and don’t visit others unless to assist a vulnerable person.
  • Keep paying wages if at all possible.
  • Help others to understand how to access Government and other relief.
  • Contribute to a charity or a COVID-19 appeal of your choice.
  • Show gratitude to all medical and essential workers.

At Oasis our prime focus has been networking with all staff and beneficiaries at home with constant education and encouragement. Feeding beneficiaries has been a real challenge. Although a lot of feeding and food parcels are reported, in reality accessing this relief on the ground is extremely difficult At the same time and trying to feed all our beneficiaries, we are also working on our phased in re-entry to the workplace and procuring the required hygiene and health items necessary for the reopening.

I would like to say thank you so much for the generous outpouring of care from our friends and supporters. We are encouraged and most grateful for your help. Those who would still like to help us, please remember no amount is too small.


We can all sell ice cream or become astronauts later, but right now we need to help others, care and save lives. Be safe. Gail Bester, Executive Director



Intellectual disability is often misunderstood and too often unkind labels are attached to people with intellectual disabilities. Some say our beneficiaries are slow. Hardly. You should see them do athletics and when they are playing soccer! They’re much, much quicker than I am! Some have even represented the Western Cape at SA trials and some have taken part and won medals at the Special Olympics. Aside from ‘slow’, many other labels are also used – all of which I will not seek to disprove now. What I do know – above anything else is that a common identity does not confer on any of our beneficiaries. They are all individuals and like any cross-section of a group, they all differ. Some can sing and some sound dreadful. Some have naturally positive personalities. Some are grumpy. Some like tuna and lettuce on whole wheat and some prefer chips. What they do all have in common is a significant limitation in their cognitive functioning that translates into areas of limited adaptive functioning.

For example, identifying and avoiding risks; understanding consequences; abstract thinking; understanding time and money; and so on and so forth… It is these limitations that are their very real daily challenges. So when you place 10 remarkable staff in lockdown with 24 residents with intellectual disabilities, it is these unique challenges that staff must deal with. If residents battle to understand the risks and consequences of COVID-19, then handwashing and physical distancing requires patient persistence and repetition. Staff lend their support, provide guidance and supervision and above all they give love.

This isn’t dutiful love, nor is it written into job descriptions. It is authentic care, which isn’t difficult to give thanks to the nature of our amazing staff. Oasis is extremely fortunate to have the calibre of staff that we do. All in all we have 157 staff across all our centres. This includes 26 youth interns doing fulltime work readiness for a year and working alongside our beneficiaries as companion workers. We salute all of our staff and especially our house staff for all they are doing for our residents.

We also salute all of you who have sent us good wishes and/or money – we are deeply grateful. (Forgive us if you haven’t received our formal thanks and receipt yet. You will.) Oasis is in a critical place financially with all of our work programmes closed, (shops, bakeries, recycling projects, confidential paper shredding for Government departments and businesses, and packaging and processing jobs for large companies.)

We understand that this awful pandemic has left no-one untouched, and disposable income may be very limited. But if you are in the position to assist us in any way, please do. No amount is too small. We need our full complement of staff returning to their jobs, when they can, to be able to keep our services open and opportunities available to our 588 beneficiaries.

I hope and pray that I can count on you?

And please help save lives – stay home.

Gail Bester, Executive Director





We are humbled by the concern expressed for all of our beneficiaries and staff during this awful time. Many have asked what we are doing. Oasis closed its shops, bakeries and recycling depot to the public on 18 March, which seemed early but our first priority was to provide as much protection for our vulnerable family as possible. Weeks before that we embarked on a hand washing education programme with everyone. A special team of staff, whether cleaners or not, were drafted into deep cleaning teams to keep all touch points and surfaces disinfected.

When it became obvious that social distancing was very difficult to achieve amongst our beneficiaries we asked families who could, to keep them home. We worked with a small team toiling to bring in as much income as possible, in the knowledge that very tough times lie ahead and every cent would count. Staff and beneficiaries with high risk conditions were sent home with, wherever possible, food.
A small team of staff worked until lockdown, arranging security; communicating protocols; making our monthly payments and arranging working from home for those who could. A reduced group of Oasis house residents and a team of wonderful staff, (some even sacrificing being with their own families) went into lockdown at our houses in Kenwyn and Ruyterwacht. I am silenced by the inherent decency of the Oasis staff team who take their duty to our beneficiaries so seriously. They are having a lot of fun together. I’ll also keep you posted about how staff are networking in groups and how we are looking for ways to find support to buy food and to get it to those in our daily feeding programme.
If you are an essential worker or need to shop for food, please take all precautions.
For the rest – please stay at home.

Gail Bester, Executive Director




How to speak to people with Intellectual Disability about COVID – 19

Do provide information Often people think that children and adults with intellectual disabilities do not understand what is happening in society and exclude them from conversations. This is often untrue, unsafe and goes against their constitutional right to receive information that could impact their health. While the levels of understanding will vary, many people with intellectual disabilities have already noticed the change in lifestyle, the anxiety in their community and they would have heard the repetition of the word ‘Coronavirus’ – it is everywhere. So step 1 is to put together a plan to provide your children and adults with intellectual disabilities with the correct information. Find the best way to share information Many clients with intellectual disabilities could have a barrier to communicating and this could be a barrier in receiving or understanding information such as:

  • a hearing or visual impairment
  • decreased understanding of language
  • decreased ability to process information
  • decreased ability to store information/memory issues.

What this means is that YOU need to find the best way to relay the information regarding COVID-19.

Most importantly, help people with intellectual disabilities remain calm and enjoy the time at home with family. Explain that we can and will get through this, but everyone needs to work together and stay at home.  


Important points to share

  • COVlD-19 is a new type of virus (that’s like a germ) that makes people sick. It can also be called the Coronavirus
  • People get Coronavirus when they come into contact with other people who already have the virus. They might not know they have it and if they cough or sneeze or talk, the virus spreads from their mouth and either onto other people or onto stuff around them like tables or clothing.
  • People who get the virus might have a fever, dry cough and shortness of breath (that’s when it feels like it’s difficult to breathe).
  • Most people who get sick will be able to stay home and get better but some people will need to go to hospital.
  • We can help stop the spread of the virus by washing our hands with soap and water. We wash our hands slowly, making sure to wash between fingers and all over our hands. We can also use hand sanitiser.
  • We wash our hands regularly and try really hard not to touch our eyes, mouth and face during the day.
  • We can also slow down the spread of the virus by staying at home. You may have noticed that your school or workplace is closed for now and you are at home. We will all need to stay home for a little bit to try to help not spread the virus. We won’t be able to go visit our favourite places right now, the government will tell us when it’s safe to do so.
  • It is normal to feel scared or worried that you might get the virus – talk to the people who care for you about it and they will help you. Remember, not everyone will get sick with this virus but you could still get a cold or flu or even a tummy bug so don’t be afraid to tell them when you’re not feeling well.
  • The government has placed our country under ‘Lockdown’ this means we all have to stay in our homes to stay protected from the virus. We will be safe in our homes and all look after each other. We will still be able to get the things we need like food and water. We must not panic.

Tips to help someone with intellectual disability manage during COVID-19 Lockdown

  • Help the person understand the Coronavirus and try to include people with intellectual disabilities in the conversations to learn about the virus.
  • What to say: The government has placed our country under ‘Lockdown‘ this means we all have to stay in our homes to stay protected from the virus. We will be safe in our homes and all look after each other. We will still be able to get the things we need like food and water. We must not panic.
  • Manage the amount of news they watch and listen to about COVlD-19, too much can make anyone anxious and scared.
  • As far as possible, plan the day and include activities such as puzzles, drawing, reading/being read to, exercise, chores etc.
  • Include those with intellectual disabilities in family conversations, games and chores.
  • Use pictures for reminders to wash hands regularly e.g. put pictures up in the bathroom of handwashing sequence.
  • Use pictures to do an emotional ‘check-in‘ daily – you could do this with emoji’s on a cell phone or draw happy – sad – sceared – sleepy – sick faces on a page and ask the child or adult to point at how they are feeling in the morning and the evening. This will help manage any anxiety they may have and will also help them speak to you about when they feel sick. Many people with intellectual disabilities might be sacred to say they feel sick because they’re scared to go to hospital or could even be afraid they may die.
  • Remember that many children and adults with intellectual disabilities do best with routine. So ask their school or protective workplace for a copy of their daily routine and try to stick to those meal and activity times to limit confusion and frustration OR if that is not possible, develop a new yet similar routine as a family.
  • If you have access to the internet, research activities. There are loads available on YouTube and via general Google searches. Activities like making things from recycled items, baking, cooking, playing matching or memory games or even working in the garden are good ideas.
  • The internet is also a good way to stay in contact with friends and family – can you set up a WhatsApp group for their friends? Or a time for chats with other people in their lives?
  • Most importantly, help people with intellectual disabilities remain calm and enjoy the time at home with family. Explain that we can and will get through this, but everyone needs to work together and stay at home.
  • If you’re in a group home or residential facility, and have stopped visitors, explain why their family will not be visiting. You could:
    • Set up WhatsApp video calls with family members
    • Put up a calendar explaining how long the physical distancing will last and when they can expect visitors again [this is difficult as we’re not sure at this point but a month is a good place to start and explain when it needs to be extended]
    • As far as possible, try to stick to normal routines. If therapists/educators are not visiting, try to do some group exercise or group craft activities. There are many free videos like this on YouTube.

Most importantly, help people with intellectual disabilities remain calm and enjoy the time at home with family. WCFID Western Cape Forum for Intellectual Disability info@wcfid.co.za www.wcfid.co.za 


2018 – 2019 Oasis Association Annual Review

Oasis is a non-profit organisation, a legal persona in its own right, with no shareholders or owners. It is governed by a non-remunerated board of people who have the ability to find balance between managing limited resources effectively, maximising efficiencies and maintaining the ethos of care that has been the hallmark of our work over the years.

“Oasis came into being because a group of parents refused to take no for an answer. Little did they know that their tireless efforts would, over decades, unlock incredible opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities.” – Gail Bester; Executive Director


Today Oasis offers opportunities for more than 500 people with intellectual disabilities as our primary beneficiaries, and their families as our secondary beneficiaries.

These opportunities in Claremont, Delft, Elsies River, Kenwyn, Ravensmead and Ruyterwacht, include:

• Group living in affordable housing.

• Occupation and training in protected and supported environments.

• Day Care Centres with specialised care for severely and profoundly disabled kids.

• Activity groups for adults who need high levels of supervision.

Read a short review from the Executive Director, the Chairperson and the Treasurer about how the period of 2018 – 2019 went for the organisation with updates on staffing, financials and the amazing growth and expansion the organisation has experienced recently.


Oasis’ Companion Worker Internship 2019 Graduation

At Oasis we have had a goal for many years to create the opportunity for young people to work alongside our intellectually disabled workers.

The intention of this project is to increase productivity amongst the workers, provide secondary supervision, and most importantly to provide companionship. 2019 saw the launch of Oasis’ Companion Worker Internship. The programme is aimed at unemployed youth that have a minimum of Grade 11. Our dream was able to come to fruition thanks to the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment in which the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation agreed to fund Oasis over three years to create jobs, as part of their 10kj project.

A 12-month internship programme was designed to develop the interns work and life skills capabilities with the aim of better preparing them for work. 14 interns started at the beginning of the year, with 11 candidates completing the programme in 2019, and in 2020 we are looking forward to welcoming a new group of 26 interns.

Internal and external courses included First Aid; health and safety; fire safety, drug awareness and HIV/AIDS. The interns also trained and have worked in several Oasis departments including baking, gardening, cleaning, vehicle washing, office admin, stock processing for shops, stores and procurement. The Oasis team are very proud of our interns and wish them well for their futures when they leave us at the end of January 2020.


Yonele Ndunge (Matric) Yonele did a three-month home-based care course and assisted her mother with a shop in their home before joining Oasis. Her dream is to study to be a traffic officer. She was awarded her driver’s licence during the year through hard work and dedication to her dream. Due to her reliability and strong work ethic Oasis has asked her to stay on and work in the procurement and stores department while she waits for the results of her application to the traffic department. Yonele enjoys TV, music and reading.


Nosipho Dyariwe (Matric) Nosipho was unemployed before joining Oasis having done a short stint of housekeeping at a hotel. She did very well at the admin work in the Oasis Offices and has been accepted to study Business Management at college next year. Nosipho is a twin!


Siphosethu Gqulela (Matric) Although he has worked for a catering service previously, Siphosethu was unemployed when joining Oasis. He is friendly and helpful and has helped other learners at school when he could. In exciting news, Siphosethu has been accepted to study Tourism in 2020 at college. He loves drawing and he even presented the Executive Director with one of his paintings. He has a quirky sense of humour and has an interesting analytical approach to all he learns.


Retetse Maphaka (Matric) Retetse put in a lot of hard work this year to upgrade her matric results – she awaits her results and based on that, her application for Dental Nursing at CPUT next year could be successful. All this hard work and studying was completed while doing her internship at Oasis, where she has participated fully – no easy task. Clearly, she is a very determined young lady. Retetse loves cooking.


Anovuyo Shenxani (N4) Anovuyo plays netball and helps in her Community Neighbourhood Watch. She was unemployed prior to Oasis having had two short term casual jobs. Retetse had completed the first year (N4) of a three-year Management Assistance course when she had to seek employment. She successfully completed her Oasis internship with hard work never, all while never loosing focus on her studies. She has been accepted to study second year Commence at college in 2020.


Azizipho Stamper (Grade 11) Having successfully completed his Grade 11 schooling, Azizipho was unemployed when he heard of the Oasis internship. He has applied himself well to numerous skills development programmes including a gruelling four days working alongside a construction crew working on an Oasis project. He is a devoted football fan and assists with coaching. Azi has been offered a permanent job with Oasis and will be further developed to help us in our shop, tea garden and kitchen.


Thubelihle Mlobeni (Matric) Thubelihle has been unemployed since matriculating. She plays netball and sings in her church choir. Her dream is to become a nurse and she is awaiting the SA Nursing Council scheduling with their next course dates. The skills she has learned at Oasis about working with disabled people will be a great help to her in her future career.


Ludwe Mvandaba Ludwe had worked at Oasis as a casual where he learnt about our internship programme. While his work skills were being developed at Oasis, he decided to improve his matric results to push him into a higher category of learning. He achieved this by improving his maths literacy by a solid 12%. Ludwe has shown empathy to our disabled workers. He has pursued various applications for a few possible future career paths. (Ludwe’s mom collected his certificate)


Nazeefa Jaffer (Matric) Nazeefa did a Paediatric 1st Aid course and completed the theoretical part of Educare N4 and N5 before starting at Oasis. She is really keen to complete the 18-month practical. She is quiet and hardworking and has applied herself this year. Oasis is looking at the possibility of her doing her practical at the Oasis Day Centre. Nazeefa loves reading.


Zaido Moosa (Grade 11) Prior to joining the Oasis internship, Zaido assisted with teaching children at a primary school. She also did baking and cleaning work. She has completed several courses including a handyman/ maintenance course which she enjoyed and has already used in her own home. Zaido loves netball.

Lunga Mbeki (Matric) Prior to joining the Oasis internship Lunga attended a training academy for petrol pump attendants and did some part time work. Lunga’s dream has always been to work for the SA Police Services. To do so he needs a driver’s licence and will be using his year-end bonus to get himself up and driving! Lunga has worked consistently hard this year and he will be an asset to the Police Services. Lunga loves football.



A proud moment for athlete

A local athlete from a Claremont-based Oasis Association, a non-profit organisation, scooped two medals at the Special Olympics that took place in Abu Dhabi from Thursday 14 March to Thursday 21 March.

The 45-year-old intellectually disabled Jeffrey Julies from Belhar brought home a gold medal for standing long jump and a bronze medal for the 50m walk for men. Though Julies could not be reached for a comment as he reportedly does not have a phone, he left a message during a workshop before the date of departure, stating his eagerness to give his best in the competition.

“I am happy and pleased to go represent the country. I just want to do my best. I don’t care about medals”

Beverley Damons, workshop manager at Oasis Association, said:

“He was very nervous before he left but was so honoured to represent his country.”

The South African team comprises of 70 athletes who represented the country in football, futsal (five-a-side female soccer), table tennis, equestrian, bocce, open-water swimming, athletics and golf. A total of 21 coaches and seven support staff accompanied the team.

The Special Olympics as the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event and a global movement which focuses on the empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport.

She says Julies was able to access meaningful work at the Oasis Associations Protective Workshops, where people with intellectual disabilities are afforded the opportunity to participate in work activities within a protected and safe environment. He has been with Oasis for 27 years. She says following one’s dreams often requires dedication, perseverance, and the overcoming of arduous obstacles and that Julies’ rise to national colours was not a facile journey.

Gail Davids, services manager at the Oasis Association, added that Julies and thousands like him, have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to society but are often not afforded the opportunity to do so.

“People with intellectual disabilities are capable, but often societal stereotypes prevent them from doing so,”


she said. Oasis provides employment opportunities which are critical for them. The NPO also goes an extra mile to meet the holistic needs of these individuals through key programmes and projects including weekly education classes, life and work skills programmes, feeding schemes, diversion programmes, occupational units – for the training of basic motor skills, and social work services. It was through one of these empowerment programmes offered at Oasis Association, that Julies was able to access the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics.

The Article first appeared in the Peoples Post


Going for Gold in the Special Olympics

The Oasis Association in Claremont is proud that one of its beneficiaries will be competing in the Special Olympics, starting tomorrow in Abu Dhabi.

Jeffrey Julies, 46, from Belhar, is one of several South African athletes with intellectual disabilities representing the country. He has been part of Oasis for 27 years and, according to Oasis spokesperson, is one of 370 intellectually disabled people at the organisation’s two protective workshops.

“Very often people form stereotypes of what people with intellectual disabilities can and can’t do. Jeffrey’s story highlights what is possible for people with intellectual disabilities, if they are given the opportunity to realise their potential,”


said Ms Fransman. Mr Julies who stands at 1.85 metres tall, will be participating in the 100m walk for men, the standing long jump and the 50m walk for men. Mr Julies, pictured, is currently overseas preparing for the competition so was unavailable to comment.

Gail Davids, services manager at the Oasis Association, added that Julies and thousands like him, have the capacity to make meaningful contributions to society but are often not afforded the opportunity to do so. “People with intellectual disabilities are capable, but often societal stereotypes prevent them from doing so,” she said.

Oasis provides employment opportunities which are critical for them. The NPO also goes an extra mile to meet the holistic needs of these individuals through key programmes and projects including weekly education classes, life and work skills programmes, feeding schemes, diversion programmes, occupational units – for the training of basic motor skills, and social work services.

It was through one of these empowerment programmes offered at Oasis Association, that Julies was able to access the opportunity to participate in the Special Olympics.


The article initially appeared in the Southern Suburbs Tatler


An oasis that keeps growing

The Oasis Association in Cape Town was the first winner of the Mail & Guardian‘s Greening the Future award for non-profit organisations in 2003. Over the past decade, the organisation has moved mountains — and not just of trash — to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are empowered.

Oasis is proof that green success stories, which highlight the reduction of people’s effect on the environment, are also about human development. The organisation employs people with intellectual disabilities on recycling projects. Its stated mission is “to enable persons with intellectual disability to realise their fullest potential at each stage of their development, and thereby become as independent and productive as possible within the community“. Moderate, mild, severe or profound intellectual disabilities affect about 3% of all people worldwide.

Oasis started in 1952 when a group of parents found a solution to the problem of their children being excluded from mainstream society by starting their own school — an oasis — for children with intellectual disabilities. Today the organisation provides employment opportunities, skills development training, daycare centres and residential homes for more than 450 people in the greater Cape Town area. In 2003, the Greening the Future judges praised Oasis as “a special and unique project with a holistic approach to integrating social concerns and environmental issues”. “It has explored the question of recycling and reuse of resources very efficiently, even venturing into areas where no one else bothered to go,” the judges said at the time.

The Oasis workforce consists of people with various intellectual disabilities who are employed in recycling and waste management projects that generate income for the association and contribute to its self-sustainability. Executive director Gail Bester says Oasis has seen “a lot of growth” since winning the Greening the Future award 10 years ago. “This is obvious not only from our statistical information, but also the qualitative enhancement both to Oasis’s projects and the work lives of people with intellectual disability.” In 2003 the organisation processed between 60 and 78 tonnes of mixed recyclable waste a month, generating an annual turnover of R166 202. By the end of the 2011-2012 financial year it was processing more than 203 tonnes of recycling a month, which, together with two shops it has opened, yielded a trading income of more than R4-million. In November 2003, just months after winning Greening the Future, Oasis was awarded a tender to manage Old Mutual’s waste and recycling at the company’s head office in Pinelands. “We currently have 362 intellectually disabled workers who are hard at work on three recycling projects and who, together with the shops, generated 47.3% of our income at the end of the last financial year,” says Bester. “Our recycling project has won more national and international awards over the years. As a result, it is probably true to say that today we are better known for our recycling efforts rather than for the fact that we are leaders in the disability field.”

As word spread about its recycling project, the Western Cape department of environmental affairs and development planning asked it to present a best-practice model to more than 300 delegates at the Cape Town waste minimisation summit in 2010. Bester says Oasis has come up with a “win-win situation for all” and that it is a working model of the triple bottom line in sustainability: “We meet a social need by providing intellectually disabled adults with employment, which creates income for the workers and the organisation. And we provide an easy solution for Cape Town residents in terms of disposing of their recyclable waste, resulting in a very significant saving of landfill space.” Desiree Behr, the donor development manager at Oasis, says the company launched various other income-generating projects over the years because “funding is always a major issue for non-governmental organisations”. “Although we raised 55.5% of our income last year through our trading activities and investments, we are still dependent on donors to fund the more welfare-focused aspects of our services, such as day centres and residential facilities,” says Behr. “State subsidies accounted for 28.5% of our income last year, but we had to raise the rest through fundraising events and appeals to corporate donors, trusts and foundations, and individuals.”

Two shops selling recycled bric-a-brac and books were opened in Claremont and Pinelands, generating at least R2-million last year. Oasis now also runs a bakery and tea garden in Claremont to earn cash. The bakery “initially focused on producing bread for our daily feeding scheme for the poor. But the tantalising aroma of fresh, hot bread and the spread of word-of-mouth advertising led to requests from members of the public for the bread to be made available to them too,” says Behr. Oasis was voted a Greening the Future winner because of its “comprehensive sustainability, environmental innovation and social involvement”.

Ten years later, the evidence shows they were right.

Article initially appeared in the Mail and Guardian


Why social entrepreneurship in South Africa?

As the financial pressure for those working for non-profit organisations continues, the debate for and against social entrepreneurship is intensifying in South Africa.

Social entrepreneurship is hard to define, with different interpretations in different countries. In South Africa, it is emerging as a blend of for- and not-for-profit approaches, which balances the value and trust of social organisations with the efficiencies and profit motive of business. Within this is a conflict that challenges our cultural interpretation of charity – to make money out of social services is interpreted as inherently wrong and counter-intuitive to the mission-focus of civil society.

It is this dissonance that makes social entrepreneurship so powerful in SA, as it forces us to look at what we assume is right and challenge the ‘norm’.

Multiple reports talk of a crisis in civil society, and question the sustainability of the current system of funding, which is largely dependent on grants. Compounding this is a fractured relationship with a government that subsidises rather than funds non-profits to deliver essential services, in fields such as child protection, education and health.

The concept of social entrepreneurship addresses some of the constraints that civil society organisations in SA experience. It introduces a profit motive to the running of an organisation, which fundamentally shifts the way non-profit leaders approach their work. It is not much different to the non-profit structure in that profit must be re-invested back into the organisation, but it opens up different avenues of funding.

Because social enterprises in SA are often registered as both for- and not-for-profit companies, they can access both grant and commercial funding. This opens a spectrum of opportunities from accessing equity and debt funding, to developing an income stream that brings in predictable, unrestricted income to organisations. Interestingly, the consequence of this approach is not a shift away from the mission of the organisation, but instead a focus on it. Non-profit organisations that succeed in adapting to social entrepreneurship introduce income into their organisations that aligns with their work.

Great examples in SA are the Oasis Association in South Africa, which generates income through its recycling activities – but the rationale to the service is safe, structured employment for people with intellectual disability.

Greg Maqoma set up a for-profit company to fund the development of young dancers, which is the primary focus of the Vuyani Dance Theatre. The graduate of the GIBS Social Entrepreneurship Programme has successfully managed to transform this grant-dependent arts organisation into a highly successful dance company, which has won numerous international awards.

Another example is the focus of Spark Schools, to improve the calibre of teachers by focusing on teacher training, a mission which is funded through the low-fee schools Spark operates.

The consequence for organisations starting out with a social entrepreneurial bent is that they think differently about how they deliver their services. Weaved into their models are opportunities to generate income that underpin the service.

Examples here include Iyeza Express, which delivers chronic medication to patients in Khayelitsha, using bicycles and charging an affordable R10. Claire Reed responded to the difficulties in growing vegetables by developing a fertilised seed strip, which she sells in nurseries and schools, which funds the vegetable gardens she builds in schools.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but profit encourages a focus on impact, as without quality service delivery, the organisation doesn’t have customers, and consequently, no income. This has links to accountability and transparency, creating a circle that builds trust, credibility and profit.

Social entrepreneurship in SA is not the magic solution that will eradicate the constraints that non-profit organisations experience. But it offers potential to shift our civil society into a different way of doing things. It creates a focus on long-term sustainability, on quality service, efficiency and accountability. It blends the lessons from business with the diversity and complexity of social values, and in the mix are great opportunities for change.

In the words of Bernard Shaw: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything.”

Article first appeared in Alive2Green


UWC students brighten up Oasis on Mandela Day

South Africans and the world at large celebrated the International Nelson Mandela Day by engaging in charity work, students from the University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Centre for Students Support Services (CSSS) also rolled up their sleeves and got to work at the Oasis Protective Workshop – a workshop of the Oasis Association for Persons with Intellectual Disabilities – in Elsies River on Thursday, 18 July 2013. Businesses, governments, civil society and individuals globally contributed to various charity organisations in honour of the legacy of the now ailing former president Nelson Mandela.

UWC students and staff – conscious of the historical significance of the University within the broader community of Cape Town and armed with paint-brushes, roller brushes and step ladders – repainted the walls of the workshop with one thing in mind: to do as Mandela did his whole life – help other people.

“We’ve had a great partnership with UWC. Our recycling programme receives a lot of support from UWC and members of the UWC community coming here to do this for us is totally awesome,” said manager of Oasis, Beverly Damons.


She said the organisation has many challenges it wishes to address and that when institutions like UWC offer themselves for partnerships with her organisation, it is a gesture that is always welcomed. “The biggest challenge we have here is transport. We have a group now of 206 persons with intellectual disabilities working here and this number is likely to increase but we don’t have transport to, for example, fetch people from the southern suburbs or the Khayelitsha area, so we are forced to accommodate people from the northern suburbs for now, “ said Damons.

UWC students painted the walls in the canteen of the workshop in a bright colour. “This canteen is very important to the people who work here. It is their dining hall, their theatre for our dance shows and it is a communal space for them. The work being done by UWC students here will not be forgotten because every time we eat here, we will be reminded of the students from UWC,” added Damons. According to Monique Withering, coordinator of leadership and social responsibility at the Centre for Students Support Services (CSSS) at UWC, their aim for taking students to the Oasis Protective Workshop was broader initiative than the 67 minutes spoken about everywhere.

“We want our students to have a new view of life. We want to encourage a tradition of community involvement so that they are able to change their ways of thinking and ultimately change the communities from which they come,” said Withering. She added that among other community projects her Centre is running the Remember and Give (RAG) and the Enactus, an international student organisation whose focus is on building a community of student, academic and business leaders, committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better, more sustainable world, formerly called Students In Free Enterprise (SIFE) initiatives. The students develop projects focusing on 3 key areas, people, planet and profit. Membership is open to students from all faculties.


Article first appeared on UWC website.